Rozner: Cubs hoping good Jake shows up in Game 6

CLEVELAND - In his penultimate start of the regular season, Jake Arrieta was brilliant, looking a lot like the Jake Arrieta of 2015.

But that was the exception in 2016.

The reality is he wasn't nearly the same pitcher, not that anyone could have expected him to dominate again in historical fashion.

Still, Arrieta struggled with command most of the season, until that Sept. 23 start against the Cardinals, when he struck out 10 against only a walk and 5 hits in 7 innings, throwing 99 pitches.

“The big thing for me is controlling my effort,” Arrieta said after that game. “When I'm able to do that, my stuff speaks for itself.

“Sometimes the competitiveness, the stubbornness gets in the way, but once I push that aside, my stuff works pretty well.”

That spectacular Arrieta is still out there lurking, and as he approaches the biggest start of his life in Game 6 of the World Series, he would be wise to remember his own words and not overdo it, letting his great stuff be great.

In a Game 2 victory in Cleveland last week, Arrieta had no-hit stuff and struck out six with 3 walks and 2 hits in 5⅔ innings, lasting 98 pitches, but again struggled with command at times before Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman finished the game.

The Cubs needed that one after losing Game 1, but this is an elimination game and Arrieta has little room for error.

“It's just like any other game where you feel comfortable with the game plan and you go out there to do your best to follow through on the execution,” Arrieta said. “So that's really the only thing that I'll be thinking about as Tuesday approaches, is just trying to be efficient, trying to be as good as I can about moving the ball in and out, up and down and changing speeds and trying to keep those guys off balance.

“I'm not really going to expose everything or the way I'm really going to attack those guys. I just want to execute with quality in and out of the strike zone, and try to get ahead in the count as early and as often as I can to open up some more options for myself.”

The Cubs got to Trevor Bauer early in Game 2 and allowed Arrieta a little breathing room, but this time he gets Josh Tomlin and his breaking stuff, the same Tomlin who frustrated the Cubs in Game 3, giving up just 2 hits and a walk in 4⅔ as the Cubs lost 1-0.

Arrieta, however, insists he won't let the Cubs' offensive difficulties affect his thinking or approach.

“I don't necessarily know if we have that mindset (as pitchers),” Arrieta said. “We go out there and focus on executing and trying to limit the opponent to as few runs as possible, regardless of how many we score.

“I have to take care of my end of the bargain to the best of my ability, and I know that our offense is doing the exact same thing.”

The Cubs are thinking about getting it to Game 7, but first they need Arrieta to do his part in Game 6.

“We know we've got a challenge on our hands, but this isn't a time of year where anything's going to come easy,” Arrieta said. “We're going to have to earn it.”

Arrieta says he won't let the magnitude of this one weigh on him, and that he'll just go out and do his thing.

For the sake of franchise, it needs to be one of his best.

Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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